How Your Heart Works

 

The average resting heart rate for most people is between 60-100 beats per minute, although this number can change according to activity levels, stress, and even age. A healthy heart is able to pump blood efficiently and continuously throughout the human body. However, a person’s heart will continue to work at a normal pace as long as they have good circulation.

This article will explain how the heart works as well as why it’s important to take great care of it! We’ll detail some causes of cardiovascular disease and how you can avoid these problems in your life by taking care of yourself.

How The Heart Works

The heart is a muscular organ that is essentially a pump for the blood throughout the body. In order to understand how it works, it’s important to understand how the heart gets its energy. The working chambers within the heart are called ventricles. Within each ventricle there is a specialized type of muscle called cardiac muscle (as opposed to skeletal muscle). Cardiac muscle is unique because it has an incredible ability to regenerate energy on its own, as opposed to skeletal muscle, which relies on oxygen-based metabolism and must be supplied nutrition through blood.

In order for the heart to function properly, the two ventricles must be in synchronized contraction. Each ventricle has its own valve that controls blood flow into and out of the heart. When the heart isn’t working correctly, blood will back up into one of the ventricles before it can exit through the valve and consequently cause a heart attack.

To visualize how these valves work, imagine that both your nostrils are connected to a tube coming out from each side of your head, which then runs to your mouth. Now imagine that you’ve filled the tube with water at one nostril and that you’re trying to suck air from the other nostril using both of your hands. It would be impossible for you to suck water out of both your nostrils at the same time, so there would be a backflow from one nostril to the other. If you had two sets of hands, both could hold onto the tube and each set could pull in air while the other set pulled the water. In this case, your two sets of hands would be “partner valves”, which control blood flow.

The right side of your heart is considered a “sender” and the left side of your heart is considered a “receiver” because they’re slightly different in size and blood pressure. The ventricles are sometimes described as the “pump” and the valves as “valves”. Generally, both the ventricles and the valves are worked together as one complex unit.

The left side of your heart is also known as the “right ventricle” because it has a longer stroke (range of motion) than the right ventricle. The right side of your heart is considered a “sender”. It’s generally considered more important than the left side because blood moves from your body into the lungs by way of circulation through your lungs, and then goes to your heart. The blood flow then moves back through the right side of your heart, which pumps it out to return it to your body.

The left side of your heart is also known as the “left ventricle” because it has a longer stroke than the right ventricle. Blood flow from your body goes through the lungs by way of circulation, then goes to your heart, and then back to your body through the left side of your heart. This is why blood pressure in the left side of your heart is generally slightly higher than that of blood pressure in the right side.

Your heart consists of four chambers: two atria (a portion on each side) and two ventricles (part on each side). The atria are responsible for receiving oxygenated blood from the lungs, making sure it’s properly oxygenated so you can breathe. It then pumps that blood into the ventricles, which then contract and push blood out of your heart. The atria contract at the same time as the ventricles so there’s no delay between them.

Your heart has two jobs: pushing blood throughout your body and regulating the amount of oxygen and nutrients available to all of your cells. A 4×5 inch heart is responsible for pumping enough blood throughout your body to fill 250,000 buckets per day! Blood is distributed in an efficient manner by way of a complex network of capillaries that extend throughout every tissue of the body.

How Heart Disease Develops

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. One out of four deaths are due to heart disease. About 5% of people will die from cardiovascular disease, and 1 out of every 4 deaths is directly related to heart disease.

The cause is a lack of heart muscle. The heart contains specialized muscle called cardiac muscle (as opposed to skeletal muscle). This muscle has an incredible ability to regenerate energy on its own, as opposed to skeletal muscle, which relies on oxygen-based metabolism and must be supplied nutrition through blood.

In order for the heart to function properly, the two ventricles must be in synchronized contraction. Each ventricle has its own valve that controls blood flow into and out of the heart. When the heart isn’t working correctly, blood will back up into one of the ventricles before it can exit through the valve and consequently cause a heart attack.

When a heart attack occurs, blood supply to the damaged part of the heart is reduced and the heart muscle dies off. The amount of water in the bloodstream is also reduced as it rushes into the area where there was blockage. The pressure inside your body will rise as a result. This is known as a heart attack or myocardial infarction (wound/puncture to your ticker).

One of the first signs that something’s wrong with your ticker is chest pain, which typically indicates damage to an artery(s) leading back to your right atrium or ventricle. If you’re having trouble with breathing, it’s usually because one of your lungs has been affected by forcing blood through it.

One of the most common causes of a heart attack is atherosclerosis. This is described as a “build up” or narrowing of the coronary arteries, which are the small blood vessels that supply blood to your heart. When they’re narrowed, less blood can get through them and your heart muscle doesn’t receive enough oxygen and nutrients to keep working properly, which can result in damage.

High levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream (hypercholesterolemia) can also lead to atherosclerosis, since this clogs the walls of these vessels, which are made entirely out of cells known as endothelial cells. Lack of exercise also increases your risk for heart disease.

As you get older, your heart’s ability to maintain a strong pump (after all, the heart has to work harder and longer as you age) decreases. We have about 300,000 miles on our engines by the time we’re in our early 40s. After that, they start to wear out and lose their strength. This leads to an increased risk of developing heart disease as we age. Since many other health issues are linked with older age, these are referred to collectively as the condition’s “triple risk” because they’re common in people over 50: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Heart Attack Causes

Who is at the greatest risk of a heart attack? Obesity, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes are all linked with an increased risk for heart attack. If you’re suffering from one or more of these conditions, it’s important to speak with your doctor about your risk for a heart attack. While some of these diseases are known to lead to atherosclerosis and the formation of blood clots, they don’t predict who will actually get one. (Also see: What Are Heart Attacks?)

The most common diagnosis for a heart attack is chest pain (also called angina pectoris) that lasts longer than 30 minutes or so. If you’re under age 45, the chances of a heart attack without chest pain are lower than 50 percent; for men over age 45, it’s less than 30 percent.

Heart Attack Symptoms

When your body is under stress from heart disease or another condition that causes blockages in the arteries (such as high blood pressure), heart muscle cells can’t get enough oxygen. Your body might put out nerve signals to alert you that something wrong has happened, but if your brain isn’t able to recognize the signals or translate them into symptoms, they likely won’t do anything about it. This is why as many as 70% of heart attacks go undiagnosed. And, these heart attacks are the ones that aren’t so much denied as kept in the closet.

Second, the scientific community simply can’t agree on a definition of the word “stress.” It’s like trying to wrestle a blue whale.

Third, there’s simply too much stress in modern life. I don’t mean that people aren’t stressed enough—they’re pretty damn pressured by most accounts—I mean there is just too much of it. That’s why both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died from stress-induced ulcers and strokes (which we now know may be caused by cortisol). The Crown Vic is practically made for stress.

The stress of modern life is not a joke to your body. Heart attacks are common among people who don’t fit the stereotype. You don’t have to smoke, be overweight, or abuse alcohol.

Stress can kill you in a number of ways—from heart attack, stroke and cancer to ulcers that eat holes in your stomach. The American Heart Association says that “stress affects blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which in turn increases the risk for developing heart disease.” If you know you’re prone to high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, you might want to pay attention. That’s a strong clue that you’re under stress. (Also see: Can Stress Lead to Cancer?)

Heart Attack Symptoms

On the other hand, if you have no symptoms and your doctor wants to be sure, it’s best to get checked out right away. It’s called an “unstable angina” or “heart attack in progress” because it’s not exactly one but could be a potential sign of one. These symptoms include:

Dizziness or shortness of breath. Pain in your chest that doesn’t get better with rest and might be relieved by over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). Also called angina pectoris (chest pain).

Approach to Heart Attack Treatment

Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack. If you’re having angina, the American Heart Association recommends that you take an aspirin tablet or chew one before you go to the emergency room. Some studies have shown that taking an aspirin prevents about 85% of first heart attacks and can also prevent deaths from heart attacks. (Also see: How Soon After Eating Can I Take an Aspirin?)

If you think you’re having a heart attack, it’s important to get yourself quickly stabilized, and then go straight to the emergency room. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends that you go to the nearest emergency room if you think you may be having a heart attack. The sooner you get there, the more likely it is that the damaged part of your heart will still be pumping blood at an adequate rate.

In addition to aspirin, other safe medications for a heart attack are nitroglycerin and morphine sulfate. There’s no need to go into detail about treatment for a heart attack because there’s little disagreement: you’re stabilized, you’re given pericardiocentesis or cardioversion, and then put on antibiotics until the bleeding stops.

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